Inspired by his grandparents, South Africa entrepreneur Shivad Singh founded Head Start Education, an online platform providing digital educational material for teachers and learners, when he was only 19.
Singh, who hails from KwaZulu-Natal, launched his business, formerly known as Presto, after graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Cape Town. His aim is to equip learners and teachers with essential digital skills that will lead to an improvement in their overall skills development and employability.
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Head Start Education serves as a gateway to Africa for educators to promote the advancement of education across the continent. The company is a reputable ed-tech provider, holding exclusive licenses for over 20 educational products world-wide. They supply these products to schools and large corporates that are then able to provide these services to their teachers, learners or customers.
“The focus for our business is to help learners leave high school with a quality education,” says Singh.
“The education sector in Africa and other developing countries continues to face serious challenges with poor quality of resources, irrelevant curriculums, poor learning outcomes and lack of infrastructure. These challenges have led to 1.2 million learners in South Africa entering Grade 1 with less than half of them completing high school.”
E-school platform on Head Start
Head Start has a “Netflix for Education” e-school platform that aggregates over 1 000 videos and affordable PDF content for their customers. The content is relevant to the school syllabus, and promotes financial education, entrepreneurship, coding, personal growth and emotional well-wellbeing.
Singh has received various forms of support to ensure the success of his business. Notably, he has received business skills training, mentorship and access to finance through his entrepreneurial journey with the SAB Foundation, one of the leading South African organisations in the social innovation space.
He started his journey with the foundation when he was selected for the University Seed fund. He was then announced as a winner at the SAB Foundation Social Innovation Awards and is now receiving support from the SAB Foundation Social Innovation Fund.
“Through the support of my mentor provided by the SAB Foundation, we closed our first big deal,” he explains. “We also signed an agreement with an established financial institution and partnered with a leading school franchise in South Africa.”
According to Singh, the biggest highlight on his journey has been launching his Mobi Class education platform with the cellular provider, MTN.
With this support, he has provided educational content to over 300 000 learners. Originally Singh was running the business on his own, but this has grown and he now has five employees. His annual turnover has increased to almost R1 million per annum.
In 2017, Singh was recognised as a News24 Young Mandela of the Future, and received the “Leading South African Award” by One Young World. He is also the youngest member of South Africa’s Tai- Chi demo team.
Apart from running a global business, Singh still taps into his inner child and engages in digital social media platforms like TikTok. His passion and drive for entrepreneurship was inspired by his grandfather, Benny Singh.
“My grandparent’s life journeys are my inspiration,” shares Singh. “My grandfather lived in a one bedroom flat and couldn’t afford to go to university. However through sheer grit and determination, he made a success as an entrepreneur.”
Singh was further inspired by his great grandfather, who was the first South African Indian to pass high school in 1925, and the first person of colour to become principal of Sastri College in Durban. “I see myself as a combination of these two great men,” he says.
“My message to other entrepreneurs is to always be on the lookout for training and skills development opportunities,” concludes Singh. “It is vital that you have these tools in order to establish and grow a sustainable and successful business.”
Founded in 2010, the SAB Foundation provides grant funding for small, medium and micro-sized enterprises in order to contribute to the economic and social empowerment of historically disadvantaged persons through entrepreneurship development. More than R425 million to date has been invested in social innovation, disability empowerment and SMMEs.